Blog | January 17, 2024

Texas Takes Important Step to Curb Military Recruiting Crisis

Major General (Ret.) Juan G. Ayala, U.S. Marine Corps, penned the following opinion

Major General (Ret.) Juan G. Ayala

In October 2022, the Department of Defense released a figure that shocked many- 77% of Americans aged 17-24 are ineligible for military service. This has contributed to a military recruiting crisis that leaves many of us worried about the future of our national security. It also leaves us with two questions- how did we get here, and how do we fix it?

One reason I joined Mission: Readiness, an organization of more than 800 retired generals and admirals who champion evidence-based solutions shown to prepare our youth to serve their nation in any way they choose, was to try and answer these questions. In a report released by Mission: Readiness, we described how the main contributors to the high rate of ineligibility are obesity, educational deficits, and a history of crime or substance abuse. Fortunately, they have also outlined one possible solution- voluntary home visiting programs.

Home visiting programs are valuable resources that help new families build the foundations their children need to live healthy, successful lives. Programs in Texas like the Nurse-Family Partnership, Minding the Baby, and Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters pair trained professionals with new or expecting parents and help give them education and resources they can use to set them up for parental success.

A report by Mission: Readiness showed that these programs helped lower rates of abuse and neglect as well as the rate of obesity in infants and toddlers in Texas, while simultaneously raising later academic scores. Because of this proven success, Mission: Readiness has advocated strongly for these programs to get the funding they need to continue to help the thousands of families that use them.

I am happy to share that in Texas, our legislators agree with the members of Mission: Readiness, and have passed legislation that will help to shore up these programs for years to come. By passing Senate Bill 24, Texas legislators have authorized the investment of over $65 million over the course of five years to expand programming and provide extra staff for home visiting and other critical programs that can help children and families across the state.

This funding is exactly what our state needs right now, and can help support the thousands of families that currently benefit from home visiting programs. Even better, it can be used to help those that qualify for these programs but aren’t currently enrolled. In Texas, 1 in 6 children who qualify for assistance from home visiting programs are not enrolled, in many cases because their parents don’t know the programs exist. With this extra funding and staff, home visiting programs can expand the reach of their current services and reach more families in need.

In many ways, our nation is at a vital crossroad. We are facing a military recruiting crisis that could have drastic repercussions for our future national security, and we need to act fast if we are going to fix it. We either invest in our future now, or face the consequences. I am proud of the legislators in my state for making the right decision.


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